Wednesday, February 13, 2013
Normally one tries to refrain from this kind of language. Some people do anyway. But I think occasionally you come across an idea that demands to be labeled in these terms. It's a kind of intellectual biohazard sign - A way of loudly and clearly saying, "Do Not Handle."
When I was younger, I remember a discussion in class about when and how the Russians were going to blow us to smithereens. A girl in front piped up with this nugget:
"Jesus won't let nuclear war happen, because then He wouldn't be able to return."
The idea that we didn't have to worry about an arms race getting out of control because the Lord was acting as the final security mechanism on the atomic arsenals of the world - that Jesus had to turn the last, phantom key along with our missile commanders - it was so idiotic I marveled at it like a rare bird. It was in fact the dumbest thing I ever heard. Until last night.
"Of course solar and wind energy should be a part of our energy portfolio," said Marco Rubio, who was by all reports not suffering from oxygen deprivation. "But God also blessed America with abundant coal, oil and natural gas. Instead of wasting more taxpayer money on so-called 'clean energy' companies like Solyndra, let’s open up more federal lands for safe and responsible exploration.'"
Let's ignore the fact that this was a sly fist-bump with right wing Christians, many of whom believe that environmentalism goes against God's plan. Rubio's statement was wrong on many levels, and I want to focus.
He attempted to cut through all the complicated issues about what we're doing to the climate, how bad it is, and what we can do to stop it. Instead, he appealed directly to the faith of millions of Americans with a very simple argument: God put that oil and coal there. Therefore He wants us to use it. Therefore using it won't result in anything bad. That was some powerful imbecility right there. And it's important to counteract it on its own terms. So...
Everybody, listen. God also made cliffs. He made lava. He made poisonous snakes, and jagged rocks, and jellyfish, and Courtney Love. Just because He put something there doesn't mean He wants you to mess with it.
There's a more complicated argument involving the existence of Natural Evil, which is there for the testing of the faithful and the ultimate perfection of the universe. Guys like Augustine and Origen had a whole theory about it, and I don't pretend to understand. And I'm an agnostic. Enough to say that God, if He exists, won't give you a pass to endanger yourself and then whisk you away from trouble. There's evidence of that. We should all agree with that. Anyone who doesn't needs the "stupid" tag, and needs it badly.
Rubio: My parents immigrated here in pursuit of the opportunity to improve their life and give their children...
(2004) Speech by Arnold Schwarzenegger to RNC: America gave me opportunities, and my immigrant dreams came true.
Geezer Rating: Bread heel
Rubio: This opportunity...it isn’t bestowed on us from Washington. It comes from a vibrant free economy...And when they succeed, they hire more people...
(2011) Speech by Rick Perry: The fact is, government doesn’t create jobs....
Geezer Rating: Iffy milk
Rubio: his solution to virtually every problem we face is for Washington to tax more, borrow more and spend more.
(1960) Letter to Richard Nixon by Ronald Reagan: He leaves little doubt that his idea of the 'challenging new world' is one in which the Federal Government will grow bigger and do more and of course spend more....
Geezer Rating: Whale tooth scrimshaw
Rubio: More government isn’t going to help you get ahead. It’s going to hold you back.
(1981) Ronald Reagan's Inaugural Address: ...government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.
Geezer Rating: Pop-pop's Zippo from the war
Rubio: The tax increases and the deficit spending you propose will hurt middle class families.
(2012) Mitt Romney's remarks at first presidential debate: My view is that we ought to provide tax relief to people in the middle class.
Geezer Rating: Week-old takeout
Rubio: The world is a better place when America is the strongest nation on earth. But we can’t remain powerful if we don’t have an economy that can afford it.
(1990) George H.W. Bush speech to Congress: Our world leadership and domestic strength are mutual and reinforcing; a woven piece, strongly bound as Old Glory. To revitalize our leadership, our leadership capacity, we must address our budget deficit -- not after election day, or next year, but now.
Geezer Rating: Captain and Tennille album
Rubio: But government’s role is wisely limited by the Constitution. And it can’t play its essential role when it ignores those limits. There are valid reasons to be concerned about the President’s plan to grow our government.
(1924) Calvin Coolige's speech accepting presidential nomination: I believe in the American Constitution. I favor the American system of individual enterprise, and I am opposed to any general extension of government ownership, and control.
Geezer Rating: Ark of the Covenant
You're free to make your arguments, and so are your Republican colleagues. There are real ideas behind them - I get that. But all hype aside, you are not a new thing. You are the same thing, repackaged. You represent a dying movement within a failing party, and that's exactly what many voters like about you. You are one more way of complaining about science and globalization and human progress. Fair enough. But the rest of us aren't fooled. The date's right there in front of us. Time to chuck it.
Tuesday, February 12, 2013
1. He will represent a large, ancient, impersonal organization.
2. Many will be praise him for not being almost dead.
3. He will speak, and we will talk about how he spoke.
4. Someone, somewhere will use him as evidence of a struggle within the impersonal organization.
5. He will be someone who has wanted a high office in the organization for decades.
6. He will attempt to reach out to people merely by talking about them, as if by magic.
7. He will criticize the organization in the most inoffensive way possible. People will make much of that.
8. Here's where I mention his connection to the Spanish-speaking world, but I want to focus on what's certain to be true, so... he will in no real way represent the Spanish-speaking world.
9. He will spend his career defending the indefensible.
10. He will be a charming way of changing the subject.
Monday, February 11, 2013
Many of you showed up at work to find His Holiness's desk already cleaned out. He just emailed me this message explaining what happened:
Hey everybody. I wanted to send this to clear the air and let you know what happened. You deserve the truth. I want to make sure you don't believe any memo HR sends around about how I reached some kind of "mutual agreement" with management, and we both decided to part ways. We've all seen those things before, and we all know they're bullshit. Remember Trish? Jesus, they were saying how she just wanted to spend more time with her kids, but we all saw her after the Christmas party, and she was crying about it. I don't think we're going to forget that.
I just don't want anyone to believe I'd leave you hanging there for the rush that's going to happen on Ash Wednesday. You know, I'd be pitching in for that, so Steve and Marco wouldn't have to pull any of those all-nighters, right? You guys are my bros, and you've got to promise me we're still going to tear it up this summer at Killigan's.
The fact is I didn't make my quota for last month. That's what Trev said anyway. Many of you already know what I think of those quotas - you remember what I said to Don at Regional last spring about it, right? You know I had him. He simply could not answer me about it, and that's why he just changed the subject. It was clear that many of you agreed with me. None of it is fair. They can not expect us to meet quota every month, and then at the same time ask us to hit all the Leadership Goals. Masses, Confessions, Chanting - you people know I am a machine with that stuff. I don't want to brag or anything, but you don't get Pope of the Month three times in a row by sitting on your butt playing Farmville!
We all know corporate put us on this system so they don't have to hire new staff. And we all know we desperately need the staff. I worked as hard as I could, but in the end there was too much drama and politics (and you know who I'm talking about, Stacy).
Anyway, good luck with the conclave. Shelley, I love you girl, and it's been great sharing a cubicle with you. I really mean that. If you could get my mug back I'd appreciate it. But don't worry about it. Okay, so... Here's what I really want to say:
It's not a question but a lesson learned in time...
It's something unpredictable but in the end, it's right
I hope you've had the time of your life.
(Photo by Mangouste35. Used under Creative Commons license. Information here.)
Sunday, February 10, 2013
"Really?" he asked. "No one's going to call me on any of this? You're just going to hit me with those stupid grins like I handed you a plate of butter cookies, because I said a whole bunch of stuff about being nice and everyone likes hearing about being nice...
"Is that it?
"No, you just don't understand. Let's all put our brunch plans on hold, because if you really heard what I said, you'd be absolutely terrified. You'd want to run or give up your faith, or kill me right now, because what I said was impossible. What I said is absolutely going to break you. If you're lucky.
"Let's review: First, every powerless loser on the planet is doing better than you are right now. The meek, the mourning, the poor in spirit - they're all going to win. And that means every single bit of privilege you're spending your whole life chasing after is useless. And before you can really comprehend how upside down you are, let me just reaffirm every crazy rule and regulation in the original Law. The shellfish, the pork, and that utterly bizarre stuff about killing birds to cure your leprosy. It's in effect until the end of the earth. So you've got that nonsense rattling around in your brain forever.
"But wait. I'll make it even harder. You can't get angry without cause. You can't wrong anybody for any reason. You can't get divorced, and you can't even look at a woman with lustful thoughts - I mean, seriously, how many of you people have been checking out some talent just now while I said that? You have to be willing to mutilate yourself to be perfect. Give your enemy every advantage, and pray that God Himself helps him. Donate money whenever you're asked, and never, ever be showy about any of this. And be cheerful while it's happening - did you catch that? - I'm commanding you to smile while the world tortures you. You must literally have no thought for your own survival.
"I hope you were listening. Because if you were, you'd know that you will absolutely fail at what I'm asking of you. You will fall short almost every single hour of every day you are conscious, and with the kinds of standards I'm setting, you're probably going to break some of these laws in your dreams.
"What reasons could I have for this insanity? Won't this just put anyone who tries to follow me into a constant moral crisis? That can't be the point, can it?
"Because one of two things would happen:
"You might spend the rest of your life desperately trying to be good and cheerful at the same time, interrogating your motivations for everything, chasing your own thoughts, and never turning down a chance to help anyone you come across. You will destroy everything you've built up for yourself; you'll throw it all away, and it simply won't be enough, and the only thing that will keep you going is you just know that you can do more. You'll be exhausted and happy, because good cheer is part of your task. You'll have to forgive everyone, because that will be your only hope of survival. You will be utterly certain you aren't better than others. You won't care. You won't have time for any of that. And I'll have an army of you.
"Or you might just lawyer up. Argue. Quibble. You might convince yourself I didn't say what I just said. Someone will have a convenient vision about the crazy dietary stuff. Someone will go back to the old text and search for other loopholes. Every one of you will find a thousand ways to excuse yourselves and a thousand ways to convict others, to make the full weight of my commandments crush everyone without power, everyone you don't like, while you always find a way to wriggle free. While you always find a preacher who will help you. I see a guy with a spider tattoo on his face cooking barbecue at a church fundraiser on a Saturday, and in between mouthfuls of greasy abomination he's talking about how he and his third wife decided that the government needs to enforce Biblical family values. I see powerful clergy convincing you it's necessary to be mean-spirited and jealous and small, only they don't say it that way - they use words like love and compassion. I see a man on a golden throne praying for the souls of the poor while he takes their money. The history of your faith will be a long, sordid, pointless account of people using the burden of my words to bury each other alive.
"And if I mean this, if I really mean it, that's because I want it to be one or the other. I want victory or destruction. I want an end to any question about whether I exist and whether I own the world. Whether you even deserve a God, this earth, or your very lives. And I'm counting on you people, you ridiculous people, to make my case for me. Either you will flip the world inside out with love... or turn every church into an obscenity.
"Who says I don't play with dice?"